Here we go again, citing the Dept. of Transportation’s blog entitled Fast Lane. How does that title not signify a name change? In the May 6 post, the writer cites data regarding safety belt usage among truck drivers in the opening paragraph as follows: “Surprisingly, professional drivers who handle commercial motor vehicles every day are less likely than other drivers to buckle up.”
Time after time, the agency has let an opportunity pass to applaud an industry that has worked very hard to get to where it is today and instead has taken a road that implies our commercial motor vehicle operators are not safe because they are not clicking their safety belts. We all know the benefits of wearing a safety belt and can certainly attest to the fact that our industry insists that every driver buckle up at all times. I have even heard of carriers placing a person in front of the terminal to check whether a driver has buckled up leaving the terminal.
Regardless, we in the trucking industry deserve a proverbial pat on the back for the work we have done in improving our safety belt record. The blog also states that “since 2007, overall safety belt use for commercial vehicle drivers has steadily increased from 65% to a current high of 84%,” nearly a 20% increase in safety belt usage. Just that stat alone leaves me with the impression that our industry has made great strides in the use of safety belts and has succeeded in delivering a message to our drivers that wearing a safety belt is not an option. Perhaps what the blog post has failed to mention is the lack of usage by occupants in light traffic, or the fact that lack of seat belt usage actually increased in some instances.
Just because our drivers are operating in an environment where they are the most easily identifiable does not mean they should be the proverbial low-hanging fruit becoming the first ones picked. Our industry possesses the best trained drivers on our nation’s roadways, and that training continues to stress the importance of wearing a safety belt regardless of the street, parking lot, or even speed in which a driver is operating. The rule will always be that if you are behind the wheel, a safety belt must be worn.
While my industry brethren and I defend trucking to the writers of that blog, we must still continually insist that our industry be recognized and applauded for the good things it does. Not only does our industry strive to better itself and its safety numbers on a yearly basis, I can honestly say that it is a prideful moment when our drivers recognize that it was a truck driver who helped feed a starving family, clothed a freezing child, or delivered wreaths to the tombstones of soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that others could live. That is the success story of this industry—and one we must continue to build upon.
To the writers of Fast Lane, I ask that you extol those virtues of our industry for once and take the time to actually thank our drivers for doing some good on our roadways rather than the continued poor showing that you endlessly project.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].